May 29, 2009

Descendants of Sibu Pioneers in Miri

Several friends and kinsmen got together to help out with my daughter's wedding. In a post wedding get together we realised how much fun we had and how much closer we have grown!

The Circle of Love and kinship cannot be broken and indeed grows beigger and bigger.

New Tanjong Seafood (Opposite the Marriot) has several recommendable dishes : crispy pata and chilled pork leg with sweet chilli sauce. Tempura Brinjal with Meat Floss. My husband brought freshly caught red snapper and the chef steamed it with sweet soy sauce and fried onions and ginger. Another interesting dish I always order is the mee sua cooked with cangkok manis. Amidst the great food and laughter we started telling tales and linked our lives and histories together!! We are more than brothers and sisters in Christ. We are related because of our historical origins!

William is our wedding photographer and his grandparents migrated from the Min River too. Keith is the great grandson of Tiong Kung Ping( Second boat Foochow pioneer in 1903)). Sitting next to me is Ping my cousin. In this photo you can see two grand daughters of Tiong Kung Ping who have settled in Miri in the last twenty or so years. Keith's mother settled down in Miri more than 40 years ago. There are some more cousins in Miri.

This is Keith Chin - young and a rising star of our family. His Foochow is fairly good now. By Foochow protocol he now has to address Winnie as Aunty. Ping has to call Winne "Bui Soh" as she is my cousin and Dr. Tie is my cousin or Bui Hin. (You have to go and find out how this works out.) There was a lot of surprise laughter here! Well by modern protocol we just address each other by name...

This is Hii Bai Yen who comes from a very illustrious Hii family of Sibu and has been teaching at Curtin University in the last few years. Her singing and musical talents have comfoted so many church members. A cheerful lady with a heart of gold she is always a welcome guest in any function. May God bless her richly.

Now next to her is the amazing Winnie - the grand daughter in law of Lau Kah Tii (the second Kang Chu). Winnie Chan is also Mrs. Dr. Tie King Tai the Principal of the Methodist Theological School.

This is the youngish William Ting who Foochow family migrated to Limbang during the Communist Era. He and his wife Teresa were top students in SMK Limbang during their student days.

Photographer and blogger James Wong is a descendent (grand son) of the First Baby Boy born in Sibu in the first year of Sibu settlement days. James has been in Miri and Brunei for the last 25 years!

What an amazing night of getting together and sharing our genealogy apart from other interesting topics. Glory be to God who brought the first Foochow pioneers to Sibu in 1903. Without them this group of happy people would not have such a gathering in this manner!

(Note : Actually many of us know each other in Miri but not many of us know that we are related to each other by blood or by marriage unless we start to "bertusud" or talk about our ancestors and genealogy. However this kind of sharing really depends on the individual whether he is interested in becoming "related" and "twined" with another person.... As a researcher of social history this is very much my cup of tea if people do start talking. So my apologies to readers who do not agree with me and this posting. )

May 28, 2009

Duang Wu Chieh (Dragon Boat Festival)

Fifth Day of the Fifth Month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar calls for a special and extra post from me today. Actually I can eat zhongzi every day and never get tired of the glutinous rice and its compact fillings of red beans and peanuts. the fragrance of the Chinese bamboo leaves enhance the taste of the dumplings. Its aroma when being steamed can evoke even the weakest of spirits to stir and make a bee line for a rice dumpling.

I will share with you a few photos of Zhongzi in Miri and Penang. Enjoy the photos as I had enjoyed taking them. I did eat a few undisclosed number in memory of Chu Yuan ( so many are like him...disappointed with various political matters....his legend lives on and perhaps those in power should remember too that philosophers are human and the populace have their ideals too)

This is a street hawker in Penang selling his zhongzi and hanging them from the top of his little mobile stall. According to the hawker his dumplings would keep the shape and they would be aired well. In this way the freshness of the dumplings would stay.

At home when we Foochows have completely cooked our zhongzi we would always hang them like this too.

True enough when I checked out the seller who hangs his zhongzi in front of his keysmithing shop I discover that he is a Foochow business man who said the same thing. He has a special zhongzi that I like - the ones without any filling selling at 80 sen each.

And here's cheers to all who love zhongzi and who share a great sense of justice.

Love is in the Lim's Kitchen

In between two weddings (one in Miri and one in Penang) I was able to have a restful coffee morning with my friends at the Lim's Camwood Road home. When Agnes calls up for breakfast or coffee morning at her home you can expect something extraordinary.

Her kitchen is a dream kitchen fitted with everything you may like for yourself and the pantry is better stocked than Chop Kim Choo sometimes from organic food to hard -to- find butter or walnuts.

The photo shows Agnes' creativity as a quilter.

Agnes brought an antique back from Australia.

Here's Agnes showing us her almost finished quilt. The whole house is full of her art and craft.

This is her organic bread...fluffy and soft with a great tasting crust.

This top notch banana cake is from Mrs. V. Wang. Better than Secret Recipe I can assure you.

This laksa soup is made from Agnes' own grandmother's sauce (the admirable grand old lady supplies some of the better laksa stalls in Kuching). The quality of Agnes' laksa is well known in Miri because the sauce is different from the ordinary Kuching laksa sauce . Her grandmother continues to make the sauce by mixing the ingredients by hand!! I got a packet off her for my daughter in KL (so that she can impress her friends). Orders can made through her and the sauce may be couriered to you.

Both husband (David) and wife are gourmet cooks. David fried the filling for Agnes while Agnes said that it was no trouble to wrap ONE HUNDRED zhongzi the night before the coffee morning. When husband and wife work together in tandem nothing is too difficult!! Each zhongzi is richly filled with well seasoned pork and mushrooms and chestnuts and other goodies. This nyonya zhongzi actually weighs more than 300 gram . Perhaps 5 ringgit is just enough to cover the cost.

Happy ladies with great expectations of a great coffee morning and lots of laughter.

I just had to take a photo of David's family portrait taken in front of a Sibu government quarters. David is the littlest boy on the left. What memories!

I left with a thankful heart and "tiong"(tah pow) back two zhongzi and half a loaf of the wonderful homemade bread and of course a packet of the laksa sauce for my daughter.

Happiness is a coffee morning in the Lim's kitchen.

May 26, 2009

Pumpkin Flowers for Your Soup of the Day

these lovely pumpkin flowers were sold in the Kapit Central Market. I chanced upon six klompok (clumps) of them on the side of the market and decided to buy them all for our evening dinner at Rumah Ugap.

My team mate Lina Kana who is the expert cook amongst us said that there would bew no trouble at all to cook the flowers for our soup.

The simple recipe :

6 clumps of pumpkin flowers (cleaned and the stigma taken out)
3 ringgit worth of ladies' fingers (to soften the soup)
l stalk of yam shoot and l yam
cucumber leaves


1.Bring water to the boil. Add a bit of cooking oil if you like. Add sliced onions and ginger.
2. add the sliced yam and chopped yam stalk. Boil for a while.
3. Add the ladies' fingers.
4. Finally add the cucumber leaves and pumpkin flowers.

This is a specialty soup in any longhouse. It is health giving and very suitable for any one on a really strict diet.


May 25, 2009

Madam Marina Tan Retires Today

Citrus is a lovely restaurant tucked in a small row of shops situated near the Miri Heritage Centre. It has a delightful menu which is not too pricey. Popular with families and the younger set.

This is the dessert called Mud Slide - it is best to eat only once in three months. Sinful but fantastic. Probably one of the best in Miri where desserts are concerned.

Mr. Richard Wong the new principal came and was personally served by Marina.

A nice backdrop for Marina.

Florence and I were supposed to be at Citrus for a working lunch. But we ended up celebrating Marina's retirement.

From today onwards all three of us are retired teachers!!

One of the best English teachers in Miri is Marina Tan of SMK Chung Hua School. I wonder how many students she must have unselfishly helped in order to get them to pass their English exams.

She is a very well trained and disciplined English teacher who is caring and unselfish. With a heart to help students to learn she will definitely be missed by the student population of Chung Hua School.

I will always remember her as a teacher who has kind words only for students even though they may have been naughty and not really up to their mark in studies. She has a good heart and a lot of patience to teach the less fortunate and less endowed. In the hearts of many such students she will be a great star forever because she has saved them in a way and given them hope for a good future.

With her retirement Miri in particular and Sarawak in general will see the end of the service of one of the most inspiring talented and highly calibred English teachers. The era of such teachers from the 60's and 70's Batu Lintang and Sarawak Teacher's TRaining Colleged will soon pass as a new wave of teachers with TESL degrees and KPLI training will take over.

I was just lucky to catch her celebrating her retirement in Citrus a restaurant owned by her son. My friends and I who belong to the "Multiple Rs Club" (Retired- Reclining - Reminicing-Relaxing- Rejoicing - etc) often dine at Citrus which is very older people friendly.

So happy birthday and happy retirement to Teacher Marina from my family and I. Well Done Marina!!

May 24, 2009

My Methodist School Sibu Junior - Alfred Sibat reading Borneo Post in the middle of a Tropical Rainforest

We had our Annual Church Camp at the Tropical Rainforest Resort in Lambir on 9-10th May. Even though the group was fairly big we were fairly well accomodated in various buildings in the resort. The waiters and waitresses were polite and quick in their service although the menu could be better. The rooms were clean and spacious with very good air conditioning. (Although a few rooms had some problems)

I must say specifically that they have a few excellent and well versed tour guides who are passionate about the rainforest. Kudos to that!

Despite the group size our own organisers were able to hold activities for both adults and young children concurrently. Some activities were attended by both children and the youth and the adults together which gave the event a great sense of family bonding.

There were of course rest times in between. We are glad that the TRR can provided Internet services and a good range of reading materials . This is especially meaningful to the more senior members of our group.

However I would think that the free and easy periods would give the camp attendees opportunities to get to know new friends better.

When at church we would have very little time to stop and chat with new friends. It could be at best hello and I must go....therefore this kind of social interaction at rest time - sitting in the lobby and making a move to make new friends can bring a great deal of joy and perhaps even an experience of a life time.

These two photos show Alfred Sibat (JKR) a former student Sibu Methodist School reading the Borneo Post. Alfred was in my late brother's class and we thus have ties from long ago in Sibu.

Today he is very settled down in Miri after having been transferred from Sibu to Limbang and also Kapit and even Sarikei. He and his family worship in Grace Methodist Church Miri and they are a great blessing to all of us. He and his wife are multi-lingual (Iban English and Foochow!) . So they are indeed a great source of information and help whenever we go out for short term missions.

Besides Alfred and his wife Lina are fabulous cooks. The meals they prepare are what we often look forward to.

Lina can come up with fantastic dishes no matter what kind of stove and utensils are available.

Remember the song?

Make new friends but keep the old

One is silver and the other gold!

So stay tuned!

May 22, 2009

Bow Tied Men of Sibu through the Ages

Ever since young I have been fascinated by men wearing bow ties and neckties. I believe there is an aura of propriety and respect when a man wears either one. For whatever reason men wear a tie or a bow tie most would think that he is formally dressed for an occasion in his life. Perhaps it marks a very special occasion in his life! It can range from his own wedding to his offspring's wedding. Or it woulc be for a jubilee.

This is my parents' wedding photo in 1948 . My father looked handsome and dapper in his bow tie and white suit. Mum was serious and shy. Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping also turned out in a bow tie and looking very smart.

Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping stood tall and every inch a patriarch in this 1951 photo for the Methodist Masland Church Jubilee

This is a family photo of my Third Aunt Pearl . Uncle Lau Pang Kwong looking good with his bow tie.

Here is my grandfather visiting his children and in-laws and grandchildren in Singapore. Uncle Goh Soon Tioe with bow tie standing next to Aunt Lily.

One very recent photo of my cousin Richard Tiong wearing a bow tie on the wedding day of his daughter Sally who was born in Sibu. The mother of the bride is Teresa Ong. I hope one of the Sibu bloggers would be able to recognise her.

Today throughout the world many men continue to choose between the bow tie and the tie. Many pediatricians wear the bow tie because children would not be able to grab a bow tie as easily as a tie. Donald Tsang of Hong Kong is often called "Bow Tie Tsang".

To many the bow tie is a legacy of British Colonial influences. In fact many would tend to agree that wearing a bow tie indicates gentility. Datuk Shahrum Yub (Mr. Muzium Malaysia) is the most famous Malaysian man who loves wearing bow ties. He has so many bow ties that he holds the record in the Guiness Book of Records.

Which do you prefer? Bow tie or a normal tie?

May 20, 2009

Foochow Antidote for Exhaustion

this is Ginseng Chicken Essence Recipe I learned from my Grandmother Siew many years ago. I have inherited my mother Multi-tasking pot a wonderful gadget made in Taiwan and it is more than 35 years old. No one >>>NO ONE ...can take that away from me because it has been my favourite kitchen gadget.

First you need to place some amount of ginseng (25 ringgit worth of medium quality ginseng which is suitable for your age group) in a large bowl with some warm water.

then you need to invert a chicken bowl over the ginseng. You need to do some research on which two bowls can match like this. A bigger bowl and then a small bowl to be inverted over the former bowl.

Now you place a skinned free range or kampong chicken over the bowl. Cover the pot and then steam over low fire for two hours until the chicken is almost completely dehydrated.

The essence of the chicken is a lovely soup which provides nourishment for tired limbs and even mental exhaustion.

this is a very simple recipe but it needs a lot of care. You might want to practise doing this kind of cooking if you need to. Perhaps get a friend to help if you are unsure.

This essence is good for one person only unfortunately. You have to divide the soup into two portions : one for the afternoon meal and one for the evening meal. Do not eat vegetables or any other condiments. Just the chicken soup and rice. And then have a good night's sleep.


May 19, 2009

A Foochow Home Style Engagement

(A group photo of the engagement party in front of my grandfather's house in Sungei Merah. Note the red cloth and the two nice houseplants which are popular even today.)

In the 1960's most Foochows would prefer to organise a homestyle engagement with elders in attendance. As many elders were called to witness this ceremony as possible. This was really to honour grandparents uncles and aunts.

The red cloth would be hung over the door way announcing a celebration or happy occasion. Joy was in the air. And every one would be busy running here and there getting things ready.

And interestingly the nervous fiance(if he could be nervous) would be introduced to the family if he had not been introduced before. Social questions would be asked (Heard that you are from Miri...which part?) and he would be looked up and down by scrutinising eyes which would examine every mole or scar! It was almost like a horse sale market (examining the teeth/ears/mane/and legs....) if I could use a metaphor. (Smile) And the poor guy had to be ever so diplomatic!

I can still remember several of my aunts and uncles were all excited about our new cousin who was very well educated (from the UK) and a new lawyer in Kuching (Sarawak). He thus became the first lawyer in the family to be followed by many others in subsequent years.

And definitely we were very proud of our pretty cousin who was the top of the pile of good girls from a good family. She deserved the best in the world. The doting father who was my second uncle was beaming from ear to ear and so were all the other relatives which also included the late CT Wong.

In this kind of occasion at that time the match maker would take a star role. If the couple had met without the help of a match maker than a match maker would be appointed by the elders. Because in those days it was not "seen" or "done" to be married without a match maker. If I am not mistaken the actual person who brought the happy couple together was our Fourth Uncle who was then working in Kuching at that time. So it was all thus considered very above board union with the greatest of blessings from the family.

An engagement like this might also be the first time that the two families get together and share a meal with all the happy activities surrounding them. And of course both sides would be rather uneasy if they did not know each other .

What's your memory of engagements of the past years?

May 18, 2009

I kept some Foochow Wedding Customs

When Methodist children get married the first tradition they keep is a Church ceremony. The Church is usually decorated with flowers. We can attribute the beautiful church wedding ceremony to Rev and Mrs. James Hoover who must have initiated such wedding customs in Sibu when their faithfuls got married in the early 1900's. In fact according to an aunt of mine Mrs. Hoover was so loving and kind that she even help made some of the brides' gowns. So this actually set the trend for white weddings in Sibu. Masland Church in Sibu recorded many wonderful weddings and successful marriages in the past.

My daughter's wedding at Grace Methodist Church Miri is considered one of the many fourth generation Methodist weddings in the Tiong family. The first Methodist wedding in my family started with my Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping when he married my Grandmother Chong in Singapore in a Methodist ceremony attended by Rev James Hoover and Mrs. Hoover. In fact I was very happy to learn that Rev James Hoover was the match maker !

Foochow brides get a special Ang Pow called "Fill the Pcoket". This is a token sum to indicate that the bride does not go to her new family empty handed. The sum is not necessarily big. It really depends on each family. Of course some families go overboard!

A red piece of cloth three metres in length above the door is a must for all Chinese weddings on both sides of the family. This indicates a happy occasion. Red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese and brings luck and happiness. Furthermore it will be carefully kept and used for future happy occasions.

Besides these customs I have selected to keep a few interesting ones too. My son-in-law received a token ang pow for a pair of pajamas and a suit. My daughter's new in-laws get a token ang pow for a set of new clothes each. And the groom's brother received an ang pow for "first time visiting".

I am happy that my father-in-law and other in-laws positively encouraged the continuation of some of my Foochow customary practices for this wedding and did not insist on following only their own customs. I had recruited also the help of some of my own elders who are living in Miri in the preparation of the wedding. For this I am very thankful for their advice and kind help. And for many days before the wedding I wished that many of my own uncles were still living and would be around to help. In Foochow this is called "helping hand" or buong chiu. In particular I miss my Fifth Uncle who would have been the best person to help and call the shots.

For this wedding I fell back on my brother and sisters and Tiong cousins and nephews and nieces to help. This is what family is for. And furthermore those who are far away sent their cyber moral support!! Soon with the passing of time we will become elders and the family support system continues when called upon.

Thanks go to everyone who helped to make this wedding a roaring success.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...